Reviewed by: Society for Medical Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Health
Secondary Theme: Science
Bringing together scholars of anthropology and history of medicine from China, Japan, and Taiwan, this roundtable investigates the historical rise of psychiatry and mental health across East Asia. More specifically, it examines how forms of mental health care in this region construct the public and remake the social. Since its advent in East Asia in the late 19th century, psychiatry has continued to transform people’s notions of ab/normality, practices of care and governance, and visions of citizenship and modernity. Nowadays, the ever-broadening scope of psychiatry exceeds and remakes the bounds of formal institutions and professionals, intervening into realms of life that have previously been dealt with as personal/family matters. Scholars have just begun to explore the political implications of these complicated processes and psychiatry’s shifting relations with social institutions such as state and family. The roundtable provides interdisciplinary attempts by scholars of Asian studies to investigate how different forms of psychiatry have historically reconfigured realms of life, inventing novel technologies of surveillance and new methods of inquiry for revealing people’s subjectivity. We ask: how has the ideological purview of global psychiatric practice come to be widened, and how do various mental health knowledges circulate in and out of East Asia, reinforcing, disrupting, or remaking cultural or geographical boundaries? How do these knowledges help people articulate desires and distress produced by rapid social transformations across the region? And how does psychiatry interact with and transform local social institutions including those of family, education, the workplace, and the criminal justice system as well as local ideologies (e.g. paternalism)?
In addressing these issues, the roundtable explores new theoretical and methodological directions for thinking about “area studies” in medical anthropology from the perspective of Asian studies. Historians of medicine of late have increasingly focused on “transnational histories” that go beyond former linear narrative of colonialism and/or rigid dichotomies of the center and the peripheral. Instead they have mapped out how medical ideas and practices travel and begin to converge, sometimes in unexpected ways. With these in mind, Zhiying Ma examines the genealogies of state-run psychiatry and the changing forms of “biopolitical paternalism” now used to legitimize the post-socialist state’s population management as paternalistic intervention that displaces responsibilities of care onto patients’ families. Amy Borovoy brings her expertise on mental health, family, and public health in Japan, providing a comparative perspective on how politics intersect with the remaking of psychiatry and local forms of paternalism. Shifting attention to the rapid ascent of the “psychological” in Asia, Hsuan-Ying Huang explores the rise of psychotherapy, illuminating the co-evolution of a therapeutic profession and a popular movement in the so-called “psycho-boom.” Harry Wu discusses transnationality between international social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology in Taiwan, while investigating the role of World Health Organization for shaping the postcolonial order and the formation of transcultural psychiatry in Asia. These presentations will follow general discussions by Kate Mason, Nicholas Bartlett, Junko Kitanaka, Dominique Behague and Li Zhang, who will together explore emerging themes in mental health care in East Asia and beyond.